While we endure living through the poorly written plot of a science fiction medical thriller – yes I am referring to COVID-19 – we must face the plot twist of viral mutations. Like it or not, 2021 continues the COVID-19 storyline with the so-called variant strains. The virus and its ensuing pandemic takes on an almost surreal diabolical persona. Our enemy seems to have thought, “let me turn up the heat a bit by mutating into a stronger variant so I can wreck more havoc and fear”. But of course, it is merely a brainless virus without such sentient thoughts. It only does what any other virus does, mutate and mutate and mutate without any thought to what that mutation does for or against it.
We need not worry any further about viral intentions which do not actually exist. We can focus on the biological fact that viruses mutate as a natural course of their lives. This is less of an evolutionary process and more of an adaptation based on a limitation in any virus’ ability to correct changes in its own genetic material during reproduction. When reproducing in a host, the virus requires help from the organism it has infected. In order to continue its existence, the virus must produce millions of copies both to overcome the current host’s defenses and to overcome the distance between one infected host and the next target of infection.
This reproduction need for millions of copies leads to thousands of genetic mistakes in copying the genetic material. The enzymes responsible for correcting errors of genetic copywork in humans prevent cancer and dysfunction that ensues in copied cells which remain together. These enzymes are not needed which the resulting viral progeny have no true interaction with other viruses and thus if one is miscopied, others are not affected. In practice, these miscopies may lead to viral failure or improved viral success.
For COVID 19 variants, epidemiologists, scientists who monitor diseases at the level of how many are infected and why, identify specific miscopies and label them as variants from the original strain. Lab researchers then take those variants and dissect them in the lab to determine why one variant appears to be spreading between people more commonly or faster than others. In the case of the recent variants, the change occurred in the spike protein which both enables the virus to enter and serves as a target for our immune defense response.
Variants can potentially lead a variety of changes in the viral activity. In this case, it seems to have made the variant’s spike protein a little harder to disrupt with our antibodies. This means the odds of the virus outracing our immune system increase in favor of the virus. This also may mean that the vaccines in production end up targeting an old foe rather than the new one.
All this to say the following. If you are fighting a war at a macroscopic level with tangible weapons, you need a variety of weapons and a variety of tactics. This should also be applied to microscopic battles against viruses, including SARS-CoV2. Choosing to bet the battle on vaccines alone will leave our flanks open to variants attacking from a different angle. In this battle, we should expect our leaders in both government and medical research to invest in therapeutics and preventives beyond the billions in vaccines.
In helping our patients live healthier more abundant lives, we enlist all resources and approach the identified root causes of disease with all resources available from all angles possible. Responding to the individual with COVID-19 and our society with the pandemic must be carried out likewise. Including natural therapies, repurposed pharmaceuticals, public health measures based on science instead of political opinion, and maybe vaccines would lead to fewer deaths, fewer secondary consequences, and FAR LESS FEAR than the current approach. I pray for sanity from our leaders and you who are living through this painful medical thriller plot.
Kevin R. McCarthy, Linda J. Rennick, Sham Nambulli, Lindsey R. Robinson-McCarthy, William G. Bain, Ghady Haidar, W. Paul Duprex. Recurrent deletions in the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein drive antibody escape. Science, Feb. 3, 2021; DOI: 10.1126/science.abf6950
Thanks to Science Daily:
University of Pittsburgh. “How SARS-CoV-2 mutates to escape antibody binding: A scientific detective story unearths how SARS-CoV-2 evolves new variants that evade antibodies.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210203144533.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.